Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ritual and Tradition

Italian culture and the Catholic church imbue everyday life here in Italy. Whether it is the daily pasta meal, Mom's Sunday lunch, the trip to the bakery to buy their daily bread, or a church celebration they are all part of Italian life.  Here in Spello the biggest church festival of the year is called L'infiorata, held on the Feast of Corpus Domini, 40 days after Easter.  The townspeople decorate the streets with designs in flower petals and natural elements, in a 'contest' which culminates in the church service at San Lorenzo.  This year the festival is late, coming in the middle of June.
A year ago I invited two friends from San Diego to come and experience this spectacle (and it is that) first hand, but pulling flower petals for the design that would be in the street where we are living. The town comes alive at night, with people sitting in doorways pulling petals off the local wild flowers, and sorting them by color. Beginning Saturday night the townspeople decorate the street with intricate designs, some secular, some religious, but all spectacular in the use of color and elements.  This year one "carpet" had melons and cherry tomatoes in it.
Our friends arrived from the West Coast jet lagged and ready to go, although the temperatures were in the 90's.  About 5 p.m. we set out into the country to find wild flowers, and spent about 2 hours picking daisies and cornflowers.

This field was on the other side of nowhere, not the middle of nowhere, but the cornflowers and daisies were thick, and we made swift work of them.
Heading back to Spello we put our friends to bed, and the next night we were picking petals off these flowers.  This kind of Mr. Toad's wild ride happens every night, with teams going out to the fields and collecting what they will need for their designs, sometimes to the chagrin of the farmers' whose fields they invade.  Our landlord tells a story of looking up into the muzzle of a shotgun while picking cornflowers; all was well, though, when she told him she was only weeding his wheat field.  

On Friday all the cars in town must be parked outside the walls, and on Saturday tents begin to go up to protect the designs.  Saturday dawned and there was a wind whipping through the medieval city, which was going to make the designing much more difficult.  Imagine tiny eyelash size pieces of flowers being put onto a sidewalk.  Some locations in town can't use a tent since the streets are so narrow, and that was the case on Via Giulia for our team.
Saturday night around 9 p.m., the work begins in earnest.  The design in laid down on the street, some teams use white paper with the design hand drawn, others use chalk and the street to outline the carpet, and others use computer generated drawings with the color and type flower that will go into the design.

Teams are still picking flowers, because you never know how many you will need.  Other teams are already into the process of placing the flowers, and the town is a beehive of activity, both under the tents, and in the streets.

I was glad that our friends had gotten here early to see this sleepy little town turn into a madhouse with packed streets, and shops open till midnight.
We worked till midnight on Sunday, then left for a brief nap and woke at 5.  We headed along the route to see the work done by all the artists, heading to the bottom of the hill, and then making out way up the hill.
Still working at 6 a.m.

This was the carpet we helped to work on

Our lady of Fatima

The wind took most of these designs during the night

At this point, exhaustion sets in

wall art

wind swept


Good night moon


the winner

The judges

Dr. C. thought this molar was in honor of him being in town
 Even at 6 a.m. the streets were already beginning to be packed with touristi.  The designs are incredible, such imagination and creativity goes into each one, and every year they are more intricate, and unique.
At 10 a.m. the bishop celebrates mass in the Church of San Lorenzo, and then processess through the flowers, around the town, carrying the blessed sacrament.  There is a band, and lots of pageantry that goes along with this.

We decided to get out of town, since all the restaurants would be full, and headed to Assisi for lunch and a little shopping.  After a lovely lunch we headed back to Spello, where the crowd had cleared out, and there were few people in town.  Since it was our last night, we stopped at the enoteca to say goodbye until September, and shared some wine (of course) and good food.  I don't think life gets much better than this.

No comments:

Post a Comment